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Air quality influences the prevalence of hay fever and sinusitis


  • Neil Bhattacharyya MD, FACS

    Corresponding author
    1. Division of Otolaryngology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
    2. Department of Otology & Laryngology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
    • Division of Otolaryngology, 45 Francis St., Boston, MA 02115
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Determine associations between air quality and the prevalence of hay fever and sinusitis.

Study Design:

Cross-sectional study.


The National Health Interview Survey for the calendar years 1997–2006 adult sample was analyzed to determine for each calendar year the one-year period prevalence of the two respiratory conditions, hay fever and sinusitis and the nonrespiratory (control) condition, weak/failing kidneys. From the Environmental Protection Agency, yearly historical data for air quality criteria pollutants, carbon monoxide, nitrous dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter, were tabulated. Graphical and linear regression analyses were conducted for each disease condition against each of the air quality variables to determine if higher pollutant concentrations predicted a higher prevalence for the disease condition.


A total of 313,982 patients were studied over the 10 calendar years 1997–2006. Mean patient age increased very slightly from year to year (overall average, 45.2 years); the percentage of female patients remained the same. The air concentrations of each of the criteria pollutants decreased steadily over time with the exception of particular matter, which reached a plateau in the most recent 3 years. For each of the disease conditions a statistically significant relationship with air quality (all p < .001) was obtained. For the control condition of kidney failure/weakening, the standardized regression coefficient with air quality was very small (range: −0.001–0.004). For hay fever and sinusitis, substantially larger coefficients were obtained ranging from 0.0120–.016 and 0.013–0.027, respectively.


Prevalence of hay fever and sinusitis are correlated with air quality. Improvements in air quality are associated with decreased prevalence of both hay fever and sinusitis. Laryngoscope, 2009